Friday, 15 May 2009

A religion of love?

Religious apologists such as Prince Charles often say that Christianity is "a religion of love". A recent survey by the Pew Research Center makes this claim look pretty sick.

A survey of 742 Americans last month found that 49% think it is 'often or sometimes justified to torture terrorist suspects to obtain important information'. In fact the situation is worse than that since only 25% think that it's never justified. (So much for 'western values'!)

Religion does make a difference but unfortunately for its apologists it's the wrong way. The proportion saying torture is often or sometimes justified are:
  • 54% of those attending services weekly
  • 51% of those attending monthly or less often
  • 42% of those attending seldom or never.
In truth, religion may not be the real issue here. The big difference is really between Republicans (64% of whom support torture) and Democrats (only 36% of whom do so). American Christianity has to be seen as a social not an intellectual phenomenon. American Republicans go to church to affirm their support for tradition and support torture because they expect to benefit from it through US political and commercial dominance.

OK, it's probably more complicated than that. Americans probably have several other reasons for supporting torture such as support for state authority which is a positive value for conservatives but not for liberals.

What it's not is evidence that religion - even a religion allegedly based on the Sermon on the Mount - makes society better. Plainly, if it has any effect it is to make it worse.

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